Cases

 

Introduction


     William Martin (pseudonymn) came from a very rural background and enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school graduation, during the Vietnam War. He has served as a senior interrogator, a Special Forces operator, a SERE trainer, and an interrogation trainer. In an oral history interview, he stated his understanding of the Vietnam War and of his own career in the military (Martin, 2007):


     To stop the commies from taking over South Vietnam, and just making a bigger communist state. Allowing the Vietnamese to become their own country, without a communist ideology in charge of it. I think history in some ways should look at it and say, regardless of what we did or didn’t do in there, look how well they fared since we left. I think that the idea of what we went in for was good, but the execution may have been poor. Which is very often the case.

     But I’m never going to be at a level where I’m going to influence national policies and all this stuff. I don’t know what those people think and what they do. All I know is that my end of the little world, my little piece of the puzzle is okay if I can make it as good as I can. That’s what I control, and this is what I influence.


     In 2006, Martin participated in the PsySR Seminar for Psychologists and Interrogators on Rethinking the Psychology of Torture (Wagner & Arrigo, 2007). His three interrogator colleagues from the Seminar generally share his views on the nature of responsible and effective interrogation and of the relations between interrogators and mental health professionals. First, these interrogators advocated the social skills model of interrogation epitomized by the World War II German interrogator Hanns Joachim Scharff (Toliver, 1997). The holistic social-skills model emphasizes the interrogator’s social engagement, perceptiveness, initiative, and wit in the specific context of the interrogator-source relationship. This contrasts with the reductionistic source-debilitation model developed from psychological research on extreme environments, sensory deprivation, learned helplessness, and the like, which attempts to debilitate the source to reduce his or her resistance to interrogation. They noted these differences between the two models (Bennett, personal communication, August 20, 2008):

Interrogator Social-Skills Model


1a. Requires well trained, experienced, mentored interrogators.


2a. Enables the interrogator to seek only operational information without determination of guilt or innocence of the source.


3a. Permits subsequent cooperative relationships. Encourages cooperation from future sources.


4a. Grants that interrogation, like all procedures (e.g, targeting, encryption, surgery), has an acceptable failure rate.


5a. Supports the professionalism and morale of the interrogation staff and associated personnel.

Source Debilitation Model


1b. Provides an algorithm suitable for novice and incompetent interrogators.


2b. Presumes guilt, because it is abusive of the source at the outset, or presumes the source is outside the community of moral concern.


3b. Precludes subsequent social-skills  interrogation and cooperative relationships; develops hostility in neutral sources and their social networks.


4b. Demands success in every case.


5b. Damages the professionalism and morale of the interrogation staff and associated personnel.

     Martin’s case narrative, “Interrogation of an Enemy Physician during the Vietnam War,” illustrates the social-skills model.

     Second, the Seminar interrogators noted that military psychologists often lack practical understanding in shared domains and inappropriately prevail with their privileges of rank, as illustrated in Martin’s “Conflict between an Interrogator and a Psychologist over Personnel Safety during SERE Training.”  This may happen when psychologists use the authority of their military positions as officers rather than the authority of their scientific knowledge to defeat an opposing opinion.

     Third, the Seminar interrogators disagreed with the popular notion that the War on Terror requires harsh interrogation techniques for religious extremists. The rationale is that interrogators cannot engage them in normal human discourse but must work directly on their physiological and neurological systems. Martin expresses the opposite view in “An Interrogator’s Psychological Perspective on Religious Extremists as Sources.” 

     The three case narratives were selected and condensed from Martin’s oral history (Martin, W., 2007), with approval from Martin (personal communication, September 10, 2008): 


I. Interrogation of an Enemy Physician during the Vietnam War


II. Conflict between an Interrogator and a Psychologist over Personnel Safety during SERE Training (early 1990’s)


III. An Interrogator’s Psychological Perspective on Religious Extremists as Sources  (1960s-1970s and the War on Terror)


References


Arrigo, J. M., & Wagner, R.V. (2007). “Torture Is for Amateurs”:  A meeting of psychologists and military interrogators [special issue]. Peace  and Conflict, 13 (4).

Martin, William (pseudonym). (2007, December 15). People just don’t want to associate with you if you’re not a good person. Interview conducted by J.M. Arrigo, Herndon, VA. Intelligence Ethics Collection, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University, Stanford, CA.


I. Interrogation of an Enemy Physician during the Vietnam War (Martin, 2007)


II. Conflict between an interrogator and a psychologist over personnel safety during SERE training (early 1990’s)


III. An Interrogator’s Psychological Perspective on Religious Extremists as Sources (1960s-1970s and the War on Terror)